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Medication and managing your kidney health

See why medication plays an important role in your kidney health and learn which over-the-counter drugs to avoid.

Medication basics

Be sure to take your medication on time and as prescribed. Missing doses could lead to health complications and even kidney failure. If you experience any unwanted side effects from your medications, bring them up with your doctor. Do not skip doses or go off the medication altogether.

Over-the-counter medications to avoid

The following medications are not safe for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD):

  • Aspirin (Bayer)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil)

These drugs, called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can harm your kidneys. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a recommended pain medication for people living with CKD.1 Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any newly prescribed medication or medication that wasn’t prescribed to you.

Understanding your lab values can help you better manage CKD."

 

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, or CKD, you’ve probably spent a lot of time getting tests done at the lab.

Lab values are used to determine a patient’s overall health and well-being. And understanding your lab values can help you better manage CKD. So, let’s talk about the top four lab values you should know.

First, your estimated glomerular filtration rate.

Your estimated glomerular filtration rate, or eGFR for short, is important to understand because it shows how well your kidneys are filtering your blood.

An eGFR below 30 means you should see a nephrologist if you haven’t done so already, and an eGFR below 15 means it’s time to start planning for treatment like dialysis, or a kidney transplant.

Second, creatinine.

The natural kidney product, creatinine, comes from normal wear and tear in your muscle. It appears in both your blood and urine.

As your kidney function gets worse, your blood creatinine levels will rise. You need to monitor your levels regularly because doing so will let you know if your condition is getting better or worse.

Third, blood urea nitrogen.

A blood urea nitrogen or “BUN” test is done to see how well your kidneys are working. A normal BUN level is between 7 and 20. Many people with kidney disease have levels above 20.

But your kidneys aren’t the only thing that contributes to your BUN level. Heart failure, dehydration, or a diet high in protein can contribute too.

And finally, number four, potassium.

Potassium is a mineral that helps your heart and muscles function. If your levels are too high, it can affect your muscle contractions—including your heartbeat.

If you have CKD, the amount of potassium you can have each day will change depending on what stage of kidney disease you’re in. Talk with your doctor about how much potassium you need.

Carefully managing these four values can help keep your kidney disease under control. If you have questions about these or other values on your lab tests, just ask your health care team.

 
 
 

1The National Kidney Foundation. Watch Out for Your Kidneys When You Use Medicines for Pain; What analgesics are safe for people who have kidney disease? 2021. Accessed April 2, 2021.

This page contains references to brand-name prescription drugs that are trademarks or registered trademarks of pharmaceutical manufacturers not affiliated with CVS Health.

All content is the property of CVS Health®. The information provided is not a substitute for the medical diagnosis, treatment and/or instructions provided by health care providers.